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tv   Nightline  ABC  January 18, 2013 12:35am-1:05am PST

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>> jimmy: thanks to mark wahlberg, thanks to jennifer lopez, thanks to lance bass, and thanks to "science bob" pflugfelder. again, go to his website, we apologize to mad damon, we did run out of time for him. "nightline" is next. free chips for everyone. thanks for watching. good night.
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tonight on "nightline," an american icon's shattering confession. lance armstrong coming clean about the lies that could cost his reputation, millions, and his live strong empire. heartbreak or hoax? the tragic romance that never was. the curious case of a college football star and his fake online girlfriend. tonight, was he duped or did he know? and a dramatic rescue mission for american hostages held by terrorists in north africa. we have the latest as some of the missing make their way home.
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from new york city, this is "nightline" with bill weir. >> good evening, thanks for staying up late with us tonight.
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well, a cancer survivor wins the most grueling race in the world seven times clean. it's the kind of story we want to believe in, right? well, tonight brought confirmation from lance armstrong that on the contrary, he was really a cheating, lying bully who spent years destroying the lives of anyone who dared speak the truth about his fraudulent fame. there was a time when such a man would be put in stocks in the public square for neighbors to spit on, but the modern version is a visit with oprah. anyone expecting explosive condemnation from her or contrite tears from him tonight was disappointed. >> reporter: even though we knew it was coming, hearing lance armstrong say it out loud was surreal. >> did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance? >> yes. >> did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance? >> yes. >> in all seven of your tour de france victories, did you ever
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take banned substances or blood dope? >> yes. >> reporter: so why admit it now? armstrong blamed the momentum of his own story. >> this is too late. it's too late for probably most people. and that's my fault. i view this situation as one big lie. that i repeated a lot of times. >> reporter: it is an admission all the more startling when you listen to that other lance armstrong. >> lance armstrong just confirmed his tour de france win. >> reporter: the icon who transcended sport, hung around with movie stars and world leaders, the one who told the world year after year that he was clean and anyone who said otherwise was just out to get him. >> i have never doped. i've never taken performance-enhancing drugs. my best defense is i've never tested positive. >> reporter: he didn't just lie
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to reporters, fans, sponsors, and even cancer survivors, he lied under oath, too. >> how many times do i have to say it? >> i just want to make sure your testimony is clear. >> if it can't be any clearer that i've never taken drugs. >> reporter: along way, armstrong's great lie left a trail of human collateral damage. people who went from friend to enemy the minute they threatened to expose him. >> it's a long time coming. i think it's a huge steph. >> reporter: frankie andreu was his best friend and teammate until he and his wife testified they heard him admit he took drugs. armstrong went on the attack, accusing frankie and betsy of lying. >> she said in her deposition she hates me. >> reporter: why would he say the same thing if you don't? >> probably to support his wife. >> reporter: after that, frankie
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went from friend to pariah almost overnight. >> i'd go to events and i didn't know who my friend was, who my foe was, who would shake my hand, who would spit at me in disgust. i got e-mails, traitor, rat, just ripped apart. it was also from the live strong supporters. >> reporter: they weren't alone. fellow teammates floyd landis and tyler hamilton and former tour winner greg lamond all spoke up and all were smeared as jealous liars trying to profit, cover their own troubles, or both. but landis wouldn't be denied, speaking with investigators, and eventually launching the investigation that brought armstrong down. he talked about it in a "nightline" exclusive in 2010. >> if i'm taking on lance armstrong, that should be evidence enough that there's a problem with the system, because i'm saying that a bunch of people did it. at some point, people have to tell their kids that santa claus isn't real. i hate to be the guy to do it, but it's just not real. >> many people think that the real tipping point was floyd
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landis and his decision to come forward and confess. >> i'd agree with that. >> that was the tipping point, yeah. >> i might back it up a little and talk about the comeback. i think the comeback didn't sit well with floyd. >> reporter: armstrong has been accused of running up a doping bill investigators have pegged at more than a million dollars. officials describe a ghoulish list of medical enhancements, blood transfusions, up to twice in three weeks during the tour, along with epo, testosterone, cortisone, and an extra tract of calf's blood. it was unimaginable to the people who used to be close to armstrong and saw their lives shattered by them when they wouldn't lie. armstrong says he's tried to apologize to some like betsy, though time and time again in his interview tonight, his words seemed hollow without a shred of
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contrition. >> i think he blew it. i think he went about this whole thing wrong. >> reporter: he called you to apologize. you spoke. what was that like? >> it was hard. it was very emotional. because you know the hurt that he's caused trying to destroy me, my family, and then when you hear the voice at the other end, the flood of memories comes back. the good times. but it's impossible to forget the bad. >> reporter: armstrong now says he was caught up in a fairytale of his own making. >> this story was so perfect for so long. >> uh-huh. >> and i mean that as i try to take myself out of the situation and i look at it. work on the disease, you win the tour seven times, you have a happy marriage, children. it's just this mythic perfect story. >> reporter: lance armstrong's biggest hope, that tonight's interview will earn him
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something he seems to be in very short supply of right now, sympathy. but his performance may not have helped. >> betsy will be live on "good morning america". just ahead, another champion caught up in scandal. it's the bizarre tale of a college football player with a girlfriend that never actually existed. customer satisfaction is at 97%. mmmm tasty. and cut! very good. people are always asking me how we make these geico adverts. so we're taking you behind the scenes. this coffee cup, for example, is computer animated. it's not real. geico's customer satisfaction is quite real though. this computer-animated coffee tastes dreadful. geico. 15 minutes could save you 15 % or more on car insurance. someone get me a latte will ya, please?
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in just 24 hours, this bizarre story has sparked
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astonishment, confusion and transformed a beloved college football star into the internet's newest punch line. manti te'o inspired countless fans when he led notre dame to an epic winning season after the tragic death of his longtime girlfriend. that is until they learned she was a figment of someone's imagination. but who? josh elliot has the latest. >> reporter: it seemed like a tragic love story. >> the most beautiful girl i've ever met. not because of her physical beauty but the beauty of her character, who she is. >> reporter: this is manti te'o in october talking about the girlfriend whom he believed had just died. >> and all of a sudden it hits. silence. that silence really eats at you. >> reporter: until wednesday, te'o, notre dame's all-american linebacker and heisman finalist, was the focus of the most inspiring college football story of the year.
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now questions arise. is the star athlete the victim of a mysterious and elaborate hoax as he says, or was he a part of it all along? te'o was known for his big hits on the field. and his big heart off of it. his story of overcoming the loss of his grandmother and then his girlfriend lennay kekua within hours of each other last fall, even foregoing kekua's funeral to play a big game, only added to his growing legend. >> she made me promise if anything happens to me you will stay over there and that you'll play. and that, you know, you'll honor me through the way you play. >> reporter: his performance would turn him into a megastar, while the raw emotion he displayed humanized him. >> reporter: how would you describe your emotions on the field tonight? >> they're in there with me. >> reporter: now te'o and notre dame say while his love and tears were real, his girlfriend was not. >> this was a very elaborate,
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very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can't fully understand. >> reporter: in a statement, he said "to realize that i was a victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was and is painful and humiliating, end quote. not only was his girlfriend lennay kekua not real, but according to deadspin, the sport's website which broke the story, the pictures purported to be kekua are actually of another woman. very much alive. who says she doesn't even know te'o. this morning on "gma," i spoke with timothy burke, one of the writers of the deadspin piece. >> a lot of people are very suspicious when te'o says he had no idea and he was just the sucker in this, because, you know, why would somebody go to such great lengths to hoax him like this? >> reporter: was te'o really the victim of the internet hoax called catfishing? >> we know that this is a phenomenon that exists,
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catfishing, that people do it because they like playing practical jokes. this one, if that's what happened obviously went way too far, and it's really cruel. >> reporter: schulman knows all about catfishing, for he coined the term. an internet fraud who pretend to be someone they're not. >> the character they created although they knew it was false was not only an extension of themselves but also somebody they truly believe has a positive effect on the people with whom it interacts. >> complete psycho paths. i've probably been chatting with a guy. >> reporter: he fell for megan. >> turns out my crush wasn't who i thought she was. >> reporter: only to discover she was really a middle-aged mom named angela. schulman's life and that lie played out in the documentary "catfish." now also a hit series on mtv. >> i'm hitting the road to help
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people meet their online loves for the first time. our imagination plays a huge part in creating an image. if someone gets cagey about meeting up and is reluctant or is constantly creating excuses as to why they can't meet up at the last second, that's clearly a red flag. >> reporter: questions about te'o's story are being raised. was he somehow involved in the hoax? notre dame officials say their relationship was exclusively online. so why then did te'o's father reportedly tell one paper that his son had met kekua after a game at stanford years ago? and that they'd spent time together in hawaii? >> two people reached out to me over a month ago asking for my help in uncovering the truth behind this profile. and from what they tell me i get the impression that this story goes a lot deeper than just the
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relationship between manti and lennay. >> reporter: and why, even after he informed officials of the hoax, did no one go public to set the record straight? >> now it appears that the stories were wrong, fabricated, that he was duped, or he perpetrated a hoax, people want to know exactly what happened. >> reporter: on the campus of notre dame today, nothing but stunned dismay. >> of course there are some suspicious parts of the story, but it's extremely hard to believe that someone could do something so hurtful and cruel. >> reporter: and across social media and the twitterverse, the mystery spawned a new meme, te'oing -- people posting pictures embracing imaginary friends. and for te'o seen here today, still no answers to an ever-growing list of questions. for "nightline," i'm josh elliot in new york. thank you, josh. coming up next, a dangerous rescue attempt, a day of chaos. the latest on the american
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miss a "nightline"? want the best of "nightline"? just go to set your dvr right now for "nightline." there's nothing in late night like -- >> "nightline." >> "nightline." >> only on "nightline." we turn now to the latest developments surrounding the americans held hostage in north africa by terrorists with links to al qaeda.
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today after a chaotic rescue attempt, u.s. officials tell nbc news they believe at least three americans remain in captivity. >> reporter: tonight, somewhere in this sprawling natural gas complex in one of the most remote parts of the sahara desert, some americans along with at least 15 others, including british and french, are being held hostage by islamic militants. it began at dawn yesterday, when 20 heavily armed militants attacked buses carrying the americans and other workers around the gas plant. a firefight broke out, reportedly killing one british citizen. the hostages were then rounded up, reportedly forced to wear explosives around their necks. we spoke exclusively to defense secretary leon panetta here in italy, who had no doubt who was behind this. >> i don't think there is any question that based on what we do know that this was a
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terrorist act, and that the terrorists have affiliation with al qaeda. >> reporter: but tonight, the situation is even more dire, after the algerian military tried to rescue the hostages in a raid that clearly went terribly wrong. >> the algerian armed forces have now attacked this compound. it is a very dangerous, a very uncertain, a very fluid situation, and i think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news ahead. >> reporter: the algerian military operations began this morning with no warning to the u.s. or british, the algerians moved in with helicopters, fearing, they say, that the militants were trying to escape. the algerians say they managed to kill system of the militants, but hostages were killed as well. >> well, there were i think about a hundred people that were involved in the facility there.
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how many of them are actually being held hostage, we just don't know. >> reporter: at least some of the americans did manage to escape as well as irish worker steven mcfall. mcfall told his family how he leapt to safety from his vehicle after it came under bombardment. >> are you going to have a party? going to give him a big hug? >> i'm going to give him a big hug and a party. >> reporter: but the fate of the americans still held hostage and the others is unknown. tonight, many families are preparing for the worst amid growing reports of casualties. the mastermind behind the mass kidnapping is thought to be this man, said to be an al qaeda commander in north africa, a one-eyed veteran of the afghan conflict, casaid to be uncatchable. the militants said they attacked in retaliation for a french assault in neighboring mali. france intervened to repulse an
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islamicunsurgency. >> the attack will have huge consequences on the global war of terror, which has so far focused on iraq and afghanistan is now shifting in africa. >> reporter: one jihadist leader warned that the french action had opened the gates of held. there is no proof of the link, but many believe it is not a coincidence. >> reporter: it's a direct consequence of the french intervention in the ongoing crisis in mali. algeria has openly supported the french intervention and it seems that it's a revenge attack against such a support. >> reporter: but in this complex tonight in algeria, the situation is far from over. a u.s. surveillance drone is now flying overhead, and u.s. officials are hoping that somehow
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